Freedom and Expression

Dissertation, University of Virginia (1980)

Finally, the implications of this theory of freedom of expression are explored with respect to two areas of contemporary interest: incitement to unlawful behavior and obscenity. ;Once the principle of respect for agency is established, it is shown that it is this principle which bestows importance upon such pursuits as self-development, truth promotion and participatory social orders. And it is this principle which justifies not only that freedom of expression which is integral to these pursuits, but also of expression which is unrelated to truth, self-development, and social participation. The principle of respect for agency is also the source of several necessary criteria which must be satisfied for legitimate restraint of expression. ;This dissertation presents a theory of freedom of expression: the reasons why it is important and the conditions which must be satisfied before it can be properly restrained. Preparatory to the articulation of this theory, the three most prominent views on this subject are examined and rejected: the view that free expression is important because it is essential to participatory social orders; that free expression is vital because of its role in the discovery and promulgation of truth; and the view that free expression is indispensible to self-fulfillment and personal development. While all three of these theories have some merit, it is argued that in the end, neither they nor any other teleological defenses of free expression are capable of adequately protecting either free expression or liberty in general. ;The positive thesis of the dissertation is argued in terms of a key concept: agency; and a key principle: that respect for agency is an inviolable constraint on human activity. Agency, which we may roughly equate here with the traditional notion of free will, is the capacity to inititate new states of affairs and events in the world independently of prior causal influences, and as well is the capacity to formulate and to employ standards of judgment which guide one's actions and deliberations. To respect agency is to recognize that the agent has this capacity and to see this fact as sufficient reason to accord that agent certain sorts of latitude for engaging freely in deliberations, decisions and actions. It is argued that this concept and this principle are essential to traditional notions of moral duty, moral accountability and moral worth
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